Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Saving Money on Back-to-School

Back-to-school time has hit the stores and the interwebz seem to be abuzz with people complaining about the costs of school supplies, or even saying they can't afford them.  Personally, I'm just about done with back to school shopping, and I've only paid a few pennies out of pocket.  I used to just hit clearance sales once school was back in session (ah, the freedom of homeschooling), but there are times that items I wanted were sold out or back to regular price, so I decided that was too unreliable of a strategy and have devised an alternative one that has been saving me even more money!  I still plan on hitting the clearance sales, but it will be to start my stockpile for next year's school supplies now.

First off, forget the dollar store.  I've seen a lot of people suggest going to the dollar store as a way to save on school supplies.  In my experience, nothing can be further from the truth!  When Walmart has glue sticks for $0.10 each, Meijer has 10 packs of pens for 3 for a dollar, and Target has pencil cases for $0.49, why would you go to the dollar store to pay more?

Instead, watch for sales flyers and in store deals and only buy a little at a time, with what's on sale that week.  I find it helpful to have "buy prices" in mind when watching for sales.  For example, I won't pay more than $0.25 for a box of 24 crayons or $0.17 for a single subject spiral notebook (both available at Walmart and Meijer this week at those prices).

Even at those rock bottom prices, I try not to use actual money to buy my kids' school supplies.  I watch for deals like Target has from time to time, offering a $5 gift card when you buy certain quantities of certain items.  I stockpiled on some such deals when offered for items my family would use anyway and ended up with $15 in Target gift cards, some of which went to school supplies (the rest went to household items I was low on).  Other stores offer similar deals, but with coupons toward future purchases, and many of those offers can be found on the Coupon Network's website.

Before you buy anywhere, see what you have.  Maybe an old binder can be spruced up with stickers or other decorations.  And how many years do you need to buy scissors or rulers?  Check to see if you have what you need on hand before spending a penny.